The streets of Washington D.C. will be overrun by hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists this Memorial Day Weekend in honor of American soldiers who are either POWs or MIAs.
The roar of hundreds of thousands of motorcycles will fill the streets of our nation’s capital this weekend in tribute to military members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to our country as prisoners of war (POW) or who have been reported missing in action (MIA) as Rolling Thunder 2010 gets underway in Washington, D.C. Started in 1987 by four Vietnam Veterans as “a demonstration to bring awareness to the plight of POWs and soldiers who are MIA,” the event has grown from its humble beginnings into a monumental patriotic tribute to soldiers and veterans from all wars that is appropriately held over Memorial Day weekend.
Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R- Vir., will be joined by former Joints Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers to lead the procession of motorcycles as they ride from the Pentagon to the Mall. Participants will congregate at the North Pentagon Parking Lot on Sunday, May 30th, for a run that will end at the Lincoln Memorial where prominent guest speakers and live music await the masses. It will be an emotionally charged affair as the experience of riding across the Memorial Bridge with the crowd roaring and the bikes rumbling has moved many to tears.
You don’t have to be a former member of the Armed Forces to participate in this weekend’s Rolling Thunder rally. All you need is a little love for the red, white and blue.
The police-escorted ride will run through cordoned-off streets of D.C, but the sheer volume of riders means that the memorial ride will take a few hours to get people assembled and moving, so if you plan on attending, come prepared with necessities like sunblock or rain gear, depending on the forecast, bring water and possibly something to eat. Adjacent to the stopping point at the Lincoln Memorial will be an area called “Thunder Alley” where vendors will be offering merchandise for sale including the official Rolling Thunder t-shirts, pins and patches, and standard fare like leather goods and riding glasses. There will also be food vendors. You don’t have to be a member or former member of the military to participate as all motorcyclists are welcome. The only requirement is patriotism in your heart for this great country we call home.
The idea for Rolling Thunder was the brainstorm of Ray Manzo, Corporal USMC, who wanted to “host a motorcycle run in the nation’s capital to show the country and the world that abandoned American soldiers in Vietnam still mattered to their fellow servicemen and the country for which they sacrificed their freedom.” Fellow veterans embraced his idea and helped turn the dream into reality, including retired Army Sergeant Major John Holland, head of the American Foundation for Accountability of POW/MIAs, Ted Sampley with Homecoming II Project at the Last Firebase vigil, retired Marine 1st Sergeant Walt Sides, president of the non-profit Warriors Inc,, and Bob Schmitt who had a POW family member. It is said that when Manzo discussed his idea of forming a motorcycle run to the group, Schmitt was staring in the direction of the Memorial Bridge while listening to Manzo’s idea and blurted out, “It will be the sound of rolling thunder coming across that bridge.” The name has stuck since.
The first Rolling Thunder was an exercise of the First Amendment “Right to Petition and Assemble” and consisted of approximately 2500 motorcycles who rode through the streets of Washington, D.C. “in an attempt to petition the government to take responsibility for the soldiers that were abandoned after the Vietnam War ended.” The ride has since grown to mammoth proportions, as hundreds of thousands yearly make the trek to D.C. to honor our servicemen and women and POWs and MIAs from all wars.
Rolling Thunder 2010 Schedule
Friday, May 28, 2010
Candlelight Vigil – 9:00 p.m.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Wreathlaying Ceremony – 10:00 a.m.
U.S. Navy Memorial
701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. (On the Plaza)
Saluting Our Troops – noon – 5:00 p.m.
Reflecting Pool Base of the Lincoln Memorial
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Rolling Thunder will assemble at the Pentagon Parking Lot – 7:00 a.m. – Noon.
Departure To Washington, D.C. – Noon
Musical Tribute – 1:00 p.m.
Speaker Program – 1:30 p.m.
The Stage is located at the Reflecting Pool across from the Lincoln Memorial.